The University takes the health and safety of its staff and students very seriously and our Coronavirus Planning Group is carefully monitoring the situation around the coronavirus outbreak. We are issuing regular communications through a variety of channels to both staff and students on what precautions should be taken to prevent infection and how to move to working remotely.

Frequently asked questions for staff are listed below - and we update these as and when necessary. If you have further questions, please raise them with your managers.

Staff FAQs Fees and Financial Support

Can students claim any tuition fees back because of the impact of Covid-19?

No, the University will not be offering compensation for tuition fees due to the outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19). Module delivery will restart online from March 23, 2020.

Will students be required to pay any additional fees for any catch-up period they will be required to undertake to complete their current modules?

No, additional fees will not be charged for any catch-up teaching, including placements, which they will be required to complete before the start of the session 20/21

International students have reported problems paying their fee instalments, what should they do?

Ask them to email funding@gcu.ac.uk, explaining their current situation.

Students have reported that their income has been stopped or reduced as a result of Coronavirus and are having difficulty paying bills and rent. Is there any financial support available to them?

There are several routes for students to explore.

Our Student Funding webpages detail a number of ways to reduce bills and how to budget. However, if they are still struggling financially there are funds that they can apply for at this time to support them, including;

SAAS are currently developing a number of enhanced support measures with the Scottish Government for students, in recognition of the immense period of uncertainty across the sector. We will publish information on these measures on our Coronavirus webpages as soon as it becomes available.

Will there be any changes to SAAS fee payments, Student Loans or Disabled Students Allowance as a result of the current situation?

SAAS have created a list of Questions and Answers relating to higher education funding in Scotland. The list includes help with payments, funding, placements, study abroad and the DSA. English, Welsh, Northern Ireland, EU or International students should contact their “home” funding bodies in the first instance to discuss any questions.

Students who live in private rented accommodation and, in order to issue a refund, their private provider/landlord requires proof from the university no longer need to be in London for their studies. Where can they get this from?

They should contact the coronavirushelpline@gcu.ac.uk to request a letter from the university.

Students have received childcare funding from the University for Tri B, do they have to pay this back?

We are liaising with SAAS on this matter and we will update you when we have further information

Who do I contact if I have another funding query?

Please email funding@gcu.ac.uk with any additional questions

Frequently asked questions - Staff

Where can I access current Government advice?
What do I do if I am self-isolating or I have been confirmed to have coronavirus?

You are expected to continue to report all types of absence from work, in the normal manner, by notifying your line manager on the first day of absence, by your normal start time.

When reporting your absence, you should make clear if it relates to coronavirus as the University is required to provide the Scottish Funding Council with information on the numbers of reported cases relating to COVID-19. Normal absence management and sick-pay arrangements will apply in cases of absence due to coronavirus.

What if I am self-isolating on Government guidance but feel well?

Where you have been advised to self-isolate but you don’t feel unwell, you must follow the recommended government advice related to self-isolation. If appropriate to your role and situation, your line manager will discuss with you whether you are able to work from home. In the situation where you are not reporting as unwell, you will not be recorded as being on sick leave.

I cannot get a medical certificate from my GP that I would normally require

Given the challenges with accessing a GP service for a medical certificate, this requirement is currently suspended for all types of absence. If you are on a long-term absence (not linked to COVID-19), the normal absence management process will continue to ensure you are appropriately supported back to work.

What should I expect if I am absent or returning from absence leave (not linked to COVID-19)?

Line managers are expected to continue to keep in touch with any staff member who may be absent from work due to illness and to manage their return to work as normal. If an occupational health referral would normally be recommended to support your return, this will be arranged and the consultation conducted by telephone. If you have any queries, please contact Casework@gcu.ac.uk.

What is the position on sick pay for staff who are absent/sick as a result of contracting COVID-19?

Where a member of staff is absent from work due to sickness as a result of coronavirus (or suspected coronavirus), normal absence reporting and sick pay rules will apply. It may not be practical or possible for those with suspected (or confirmed) COVID-19 to obtain the regular medical certification from their GP in the normal way, so the requirement for certification has been temporarily suspended.

Line managers are being asked to maintain contact with their staff members throughout any period of absence in order to stay up-to-date on their state of health and ensure they receive any necessary support.

My childcare provider/child's school is closed due to COVID-19 - what do I do?

We appreciate the additional challenges this will present. In order to support the ongoing operation of the University, along with ensuring that parents and carers can manage family life, flexibility will be required from all. If you are in this situation you should notify your line manager of your changed situation and discuss potential options to continue working as far as possible.

Alternative working arrangements and methods that enable you to continue to contribute meaningfully to your team will be explored by your line manager. This might include you working flexible and different hours to your normal working patterns and/or agreeing to different work activities to accommodate any childcare requirements. Your line manager will work closely with you to develop flexible working options, and agreed individual arrangements will be kept under review and adapted as necessary during the COVID-19 period.

If your caring commitments do not allow for any alternative working arrangements to be put in place, you will be permitted time off with full pay in light of the exceptional circumstances faced.

My plans for a pre-approved annual leave have been cancelled - can I now cancel my annual leave?

The University appreciates staff members’ plans/bookings relating to requested annual leave may have now fallen through, eg flights, hotel, cancelled etc. We would, however, expect staff to take any pre-approved leave unless there are exceptional circumstances as to why this needs to be re-allocated. At this challenging time, it is important that staff take annual leave in order to safeguard their wellbeing.

Depending on the timing of the return to normal operations it will be difficult to accommodate all new requests for annual leave at that point. Therefore, it is important that you continue to take a planned approach to using your annual leave entitlement.

Can I book annual leave during this period of working from home?

Yes, we would expect and encourage staff members to book annual leave during the time the University is operating a working-from-home model, and within your normal annual leave year. It is important staff use their annual leave allocation and should continue to request annual leave through their line manager as per the normal local process. By exception, a maximum of five days of annual leave can be carried forward into the next annual leave year, subject to prior permission from your line manager.

Email signatures for staff/description of current status?

For those using out-of-office hours notifications on your emails, we need to provide a consistent message regarding the fact the University is still working and operating as far as possible, even though largely off-campus. Please see the suggestion below for guidance. If you need to add additional information about contact or working processes, please feel free to do so.

“The current situation in relation to coronavirus means the University has now largely moved to staff and students working online remotely. I will be available via email during my normal operating hours as usual. Please bear with us as we get used to our new working practices.”

Where can I expect to get support during this difficult and unpredictable period?

Line managers are being asked to keep in regular contact with their staff members during this period, which will help to alleviate any immediate/emerging concerns you might have.

Access to Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) services that provide 24/7 support continues to be available, as does PAM Assist, the University’s occupational health provider, which provides access to clinical and professional expertise through a telephone/online counselling service. To access PAM Assist, call 0800 882 4102 or visit the website: https://www.pam-assist.com/ (username: GCU and password: EAP)

These options will provide opportunities to discuss all kinds of issues/anxieties you might be experiencing at this difficult time.

Should routine meetings still go ahead?

Line managers and staff members should consider alternative methods to communicate, such as teleconferences eg through Teams or Zoom.

What is the position on pay for Casual Process workers, if any scheduled work is cancelled for reasons relating to COVID-19?

Line managers will work with their casual workers to understand/ensure current work commitments can be fulfilled. It may be that alternative ways of delivering the work can be agreed, if necessary. However, it is important to note casual workers will receive payment for any work that is disrupted or cancelled for reasons relating to COVID-19.  

How do I receive support from People Services?

You can send questions via the relevant mailbox and a member of People Services will get in touch with you:

Key contacts:

For urgent operational issues, please contact Kathleen Cleary, People Services Operations Manager: Kathleen.Cleary@gcu.ac.uk

For urgent data/reports, please contact Pete Jennings, Workforce Systems Manager: Peter.Jennings@gcu.ac.uk

Business Partners within People Services are responsible for specific client areas.

Frequently asked questions for postgraduate and research students

Attendance, remote working and access to laboratories

Q. What do I do about attending work?

A. In line with the UK government’s advice, we are advising that anyone who can work from home, who is already equipped with the right technology and enabled with the necessary capabilities to practically deliver in a new way, should now do so. If you believe you can do this, you should agree with your line manager that this is the case.

Q. What about remote working?

A. This can involve Skype, WebEx, Zoom or MS Teams. For example, MS Teams is good for large groups, whilst, at the moment, Zoom is free for groups of six and meetings of up to 45 minutes’ duration. The IT Helpdesk can be contacted ithelp@gcu.ac.uk. All of the usual standards in terms of data security apply to home working, so make sure you are up to date on the online training and guides to handling special category/ sensitive data. Wherever possible, sensitive data should be kept securely on campus. Where that is impossible, discuss with your Principle Investigator/Supervisor.

If possible, electronic data should be stored on University network drives so that it is held securely in the University’s IT infrastructure. This means that access is controlled and the data is available to appropriate staff/researchers. In cases where it is agreed that sensitive data can be removed from campus, staff have access to encrypted laptops/USBs which could hold electronic copies of the records that are scanned to secure files and shared. If physical records must be removed, then these should be redacted to remove any personal data. As well as obtaining copies of the data, a record should be kept of any personal data leaving campus ie when it was removed, who has it and where it will be located when off-site.

Some basic guidance to researchers on the best practice to protect personal data when offsite, includes:

  • Keep the information and personal data securely stored away in your home when not using it
  • Do not disclose personal data or allow others in your household to access the personal data
  • Where possible, limit the amount you transport or travel with the data – keep it at home, don’t risk leaving it in your car, a café or public transport.
  • If you lose the data or have reason to think it has been stolen, contact dataprotection@gcu.ac.uk immediately
  • Personal data should be disposed of securely. Documents must be shredded or disposed of via secure document disposal (which may mean returning them to GCU for disposal). Do not throw them straight in your household bin

Q. What about access to laboratories?

A. For staff and PhD students, access for this week will be facilitated as per usual, but beyond March 20, it is important to plan for remote working with your supervisor or line manager. Where this creates an issue of risk and/or resource (eg extra costs), you should discuss this with your Postgraduate Research Tutor/Associate Dean Research and, if necessary, escalate this to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research. The first course of action should be to attempt to reorganise the project so that lab requirements can be factored in at a later date without any adverse effect on project timelines

Data collection, supervision, impact on VISAs, RDC2, and research project applications

Q. What about research involving data collection from human participants (eg via interviews) and in specialist laboratories?

A. For research involving human participants:

Unless clinically essential for treatment purposes, all (staff, PhD, MSc) current and planned data collection involving direct face-to-face contact between researcher and participant should be suspended and re-organised when the coronavirus outbreak is over. Where relevant, NHS Research guidance should also be followed. Your Associate Dean Research should be notified if you consider suspension is not possible at this point.

  • Do not enter into participants’ homes. Older participants and those with health conditions might be voluntarily self-isolating. You might still phone them to check on them and to explain. Some data collection might be done remotely – so, again, talk to your research team. Principal Investigators (PIs)s and Directors of Studies (DoSs) should consider whether such alternative approaches to data collection, eg telephone/Skype interviews are feasible.
  • PIs should notify funding bodies of any changes in circumstances and copy in your Associate Dean Research and Mark Anderson, Director of the Research and Innovation Office. For health projects based in the School of Health and Life Sciences (SHLS), the Centre for Living and elsewhere, please copy in Lyndsay McDade, Senior Clinical Research Governance Manager. Lyndsay will offer support and advice regarding any required NHS approval amendments. Any impact on fixed-term contract researchers should be discussed with the funding body and if necessary, People Services, with outcomes notified to your ADR and HoD.
  • DoSs and research students should discuss reorganising work activities to be productive during any suspensions of data collection or lab access, eg drafting chapters, but seek advice from ADRs/PGRTs in the event of potential inability to produce the thesis as originally planned.
  • Indeed, any issues with regard to risk or resource should be raised with the ADR and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

For research in specialist laboratories, we request that this research is ceased for the time being and that PIs/ DoSs decide and agree with ADRs how to safely ‘cease’ experiments/data collection in a way that minimises risk, waste, and maximises the utility of the existing work. As with lab access, any requests for ‘exceptional continuation’ should be put to the Associate Dean Research in the first instance.

Q. Is there any guidance on what to do about research on Covid 19 or if wider aspects of research are impacted by Covid 19?

A. Guidance on issues such as amendments to existing studies (e.g. because of exposure of or to patients) is available at the following sites:

Q. What about supervision of researchers?

A. It is important that, as a supervisor and line manager, you follow the University guidance issued to line managers.

Q. What about Vivas for PhDs?

A. We are compiling a list of Vivas that have been set up and we are arranging for remote administration of them according to these guidelines. The guidelines also cover what we will do for future Vivas if we move to complete remote working.

Q. What about RDC2 Examination?

A. You can now hold the RDC2 examination by videoconferencing. Guidelines on how to do this can be found here.

Q. What about research project applications

A. These will continue as usual, as we have, for the most part, now established an electronic system. We await any announcements from funders as to any changes in grant deadlines or anything else with regard to submissions. If in any doubt, you can contact the Research & Innovation Office at riegeneral@gcu.ac.uk or else the individual emails described here

REF, position on pay-for-research students, contacts for help and advice

Q. What about the REF?

A. Preparations for the REF continue, but, as with all areas of our work, have been impacted by Covid-19.

On March 24, it was announced that the REF submission date of November 27, 2020, would be postponed.

There are three main implications of the announcement, as follows:

 

  • Submission delayed: We will be informed eight months before the new submission date. So, for example, if we were informed in January 2021, the new submission date would be August 2021. Of course, REF could make the announcement before the now-previous submission date (November 27, 2020), meaning that it would not necessarily be delayed by eight months as such. For example, if, by some stroke of good fortune, things were easing by May 2020, and a new submission date was announced at that point, then it could be January 2021; so not amounting to much of a delay at all. The logic for eight months is likely that it is approximately eight months from the March 24 announcement to the previous submission date.
  • Census date remains the same: This is the date on which staff in all Higher Education Institutions, who will have outputs submitted to the REF, have to be in post. It is currently July 31, 2020. At the moment, it seems sensible not to alter this date given that, as illustrated above, the delay may not be that long in effect. However, it may change in the future.
  • Pressure still on: Due to the potential for the effective delay not being that long and the unchanged census date, our current timetable still applies, although this is being discussed by our Research Continuity Group and our REF Management Group.

 

Q. What is the position on pay-for-research students engaged through the casual process, if any scheduled work is cancelled for reasons relating to COVID-19?

A. Line managers should work with their casual workers to understand if or ensure that current work commitments can be fulfilled. It may be alternative ways of delivering the work can be agreed if necessary. However, it is important to reassure casual workers that they will receive payment for any work they may be unable to deliver that is disrupted or cancelled for reasons relating to Covid-19. This includes engagements where there is a reasonable expectation of work based on previous agreements or commitments being made. Line managers must ensure the normal casual worker paperwork is processed in line with normal arrangements. People Services will work together with school-based Professional Services staff and department process owners to ensure any casual paperwork is processed. If you have any concerns regarding this, please contact CasualHours@gcu.ac.uk

Q. Who can help with advice?

A. We are working on plans for the ongoing continuation of research studies, supervision and research within the new context of social distancing. You will see further updates as we develop resources and guidance for remote working in research.

For research students, in the first instance, you should keep in touch with your supervisors and raise any concerns you may have to them. If supervisors aren’t sure of the answer, please both raise your questions/concerns to your Postgraduate Research Tutor (PgRT) and then to your Senior PgRT and/or your Associate Dean of Research.

In addition, the Graduate School will continue to help facilitate answers and solutions to your questions at any point through the graduateschool@gcu.ac.uk mailbox.

A flow chart of who can help can be found on the Graduate School website or at https://edshare.gcu.ac.uk/id/ document/39339 A list of key contacts is available on the Graduate School website.

For staff researchers, please raise your questions/ concerns to your research group leaders and ADRs.

Coronavirus advice: Students with any questions, please contact the coronavirus helpline: +44 141 331 3130 (9am to 5pm, seven days per week) or you can email coronavirushelpline@gcu.ac.uk

Further information for staff and students is available via our dedicated web page. Wellbeing advice: Staff members with any questions or concerns can contact the staff well-being service at staffwellbeing@gcu.ac.uk.

Research students with any questions or concerns can contact the student well-being service at studentwellbeing@gcu.ac.uk.